The retro video-game market rakes in around 200 million dollars annually. This despite the fact that we live in a bit-torrent age where consumers want and expect free entertainment. The reason for this paradox is simple: Just as art collectors eschew reproductions for the real deal, retro game collectors want the original. After all, anyone can download a “Gamma-Attack” emulator for nothing, but getting your hands on the original Atari 2600 cartridge (the only one ever produced), well, it’s not wholly unlike stumbling upon an Action Comics #1 featuring the first appearance by a character called Superman.
Yes, retro gaming is its own subculture. So, for the uninitiated, here’s a primer.
Search high and low
And that doesn’t just mean scouring the furthest reaches of cyberspace. Sure, there’s plenty of good used video game trading sites out there, and there are some passionate folks running legit online businesses that enable you to buy used video games online. But it’s important to get out of the house too. There are treasures to be found in local flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores across the country, in almost every city and town. Those who do their retro game collecting buying online are ignoring a valuable resource.
Mobile apps are invaluable tools for the avid game collector—especially where it concerns price comparison. The Amzaon.com and eBay apps will allow you to search used titles and find the current market prices of retro games so you’ll know whether you’re paying too much, or getting a great deal. And they can also help with cataloging. Smartphone apps like Retro NES Collector and N64 Collector are inexpensive and allow the user to compile lists and input games.
Understand the retro hardware
In the world of today, the idea of physical video games is all but an antiquated notion. Retro collectors need to be aware of the physical properties of cartridges, discs and accessories. A PlayStation 2 game with cracks or scratches on it will be all but worthless on the open market; a Nintendo cartridge with missing or damaged pins won’t play. And the earliest photodiode gaming accessories, such as the NES Zapper, were designed for use with cathode ray tube televisions and won’t work on modern flat-screen or plasma TVs.
Those who are agonizing over a scratched game disc can perform the fingernail test to see if that game is salvageable.
Buy in bulk; consolidate shipping costs
Retro video game collectors looking to resell face ever-shrinking profit margins. This comes in the form of such things as bidding and payment-processing fees. Excess shipping and insurance costs can further reduce potential profits. The solution to this is to buy in bulk whenever possible. Not only will you save on shipping, but the merchandise costs are sure to go down when placing larger orders. And whenever possible, try and deal with sellers directly. eBay is an invaluable site for game collectors, but it is also a middleman, and anytime you can eliminate the middleman you are saving yourself cash.
These are some basic fundamentals every aspiring retro video game collector should take to heart. Some other rules of thumb include doing your research on market trends and used buying prices, taking the time to thoroughly inspect potential purchases, and always playing a game on a used console you’re thinking about buying in order to test it out. Also, make sure the connectors work, that there’s no rust or other damage, and that everything is in order. This will ensure the hardware appreciates in value over time, not depreciates.